The New York Rangers may have a one game to none lead in their Eastern Conference Quarter Final matchup against eight seed Ottawa, but if they go up 2-0 in the series tonight (7 p.m., NBC Sports Network), it will be because they have made adjustments.
Unlike the NHL regular season, when you may seem a team once ever few weeks or months, the playoffs are a different animal. The playoffs consists of series that can go as long as seven games; over a time when teams can be ever-changing.
It’s been discussed here and everywhere else that Ottawa played a pretty solid game one. First year Ottawa coach Paul MacLean even said after game one that for 54 minutes, his team played well. He’s right. It was the Rangers more often running around in their defensive zone while the Senators had control of the puck.
The Rangers came out with a victory, but repeated shifts spent in the defensive zone wears down a team, especially one that relies heavily on a select few defenseman. It leads to missed assignments, shots on goal, and penalties. While the Rangers were good on the penalty kill in game one and all season for that matter, you never want to give up several power plays to a team like Ottawa with all their offensive threats.
The strength of the Rangers’ game tonight needs to be their forecheck with guys like Ryan Callahan and Brandon Prust and ability to cycle to puck in behind Craig Anderson with all their lines, but most importantly Brian Boyle with Brandon Dubinsky and Ruslan Fedotenko. Anderson does possess the ability to win a game on his own, but as we all witnessed in game one, he also has a tendency to be a little shaky when the going gets tough.
If the Rangers can forecheck like we’ve seen in some of their more successful efforts in the regular season, it will keep the depth Ottawa has up front with guys like Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek, Kyle Turris and others, pinned in their own zone as well. Ottawa likes to send their defensemen up in the rush, so offensive zone time for the Rangers is critical, and may also make Ottawa’s more mobile defensemen like Erik Karlsson and Matt Gilroy think twice before getting caught up ice.
The Senators lost game one because the Rangers were able to stick to the game plan. For the Rangers to win they will need to execute their game plan better from the start, and not rely on icings and a well placed timeout by coach John Tortorella to get their offensive game going.
The odds have and continue to favor the Rangers in the series because of their goaltending, style of play and timely goal scoring. If the first two games between the Penguins and Flyers as well as the Canucks and Kings didn’t teach us a lesson we’ve all learned one too many times before, it’s that the games are not played on paper, but rather on the ice.
Check back here later for more, and for continued coverage and comments on the Rangers-Senators game two, check me out on Twitter @S_Snydes.